Matchups, streaks, gut instincts, wild guesses.
We -- and I mean the entire fantasy community -- use all sorts of variables to rank and evaluate players, including the above four. But if you whittle fantasy baseball analysis down to its most basic levels, projections are what drive our decisions.
When we rank players in our weekly columns, including in this space, what we're doing is projecting -- guessing, if you will, albeit calculated -- player value from this date forward. What matters to us are stats, and there's no smarter way to estimate future value than to sit down and actually forecast future statistics.
So, with roughly one-third of the season in the books, it's time to revisit the project of projections, re-evaluating and revising forecasted numbers based upon what's now a fairly healthy sample size of 2011 statistics. This week's rankings columns -- "Hit Parade" and "Relief Efforts" included -- tackle that task, expanding the rankings and listing projected numbers for all players from June 1 forward. Consider this week's columns effective partners to our recently revised Top 250.
A few notes, before we begin: These are my projections alone, not ESPN's, using my projections method. And as they've been formulated during the past several days, understand that even I've learned some things from the exercise. You might find some of this week's ranking shifts puzzling, and the simplest explanation might be that the projected numbers showed me something I hadn't considered before. (Hello, Josh Tomlin. )
In addition, these rankings follow roughly the formula we use in our Player Rater, although they're not exact. Upside, injury risk, role and team factors come into play, particularly in lower tiers, and although a certain projection might seem worthy of a higher or lower ranking, consider that any might have affected the specific rank. For example, Mark Buehrle's projected stats -- if he achieves them -- would rank him higher than 101st using the Player Rater formula, but a lack of upside drops him a few spots behind some more intriguing starters.
Here we go. Let the debates begin!
TOP 125 STARTING PITCHERS
Note: Tristan H. Cockcroft's top 125 starting pitchers are ranked for their expected performance -- and projections -- from this point forward, not for statistics that have already been accrued.
Tristan H. Cockcroft is a fantasy baseball analyst for ESPN.com and a two-time champion of the League of Alternative Baseball Reality (LABR) experts league. You can e-mail him here, or follow him on Twitter @SultanofStat.